The recent sighting of the Capped Langur in the fringes of Jowai has caught the attention of many of the residents of the town and even in the adjoining villages.
It was such exciting news spreading like wildfire, at the same time flashing in most of the local news channels and in social media.
Their videos were circulating though social media of locals updating on their whereabouts.
These wonderful creatures received overwhelming attention among the public.
These wildlife were sighted for the first time in 50 years.
It was such an amazing experience for the people of Jowai to witness such wildlife in the forest known as Ka Khloo Paiu Ram Pyrthai, located near the Jowai town.
In fact, it was something unexpected that such big mammals would be still sighted in these forests since most animals have been hunted out in the past and that’s why they are so rare to see.
As witnessed, in the present scenario most of the forests in the vicinity of this small town were seen rapidly shrinking in almost all directions, houses started sprouting.
The town, like any other, is expanding in all directions, except for these pockets of forest where these wildlife are taking refuge.
However, such forests still exist due to the religious sanctity conferred upon them as a sacred grove by the Pnar people who still follow the indigenous faith known as the Niamtre.
Such sacred forest which covers an area of merely 12-13 Ha (approximately) serves as the luxurious habitat of the Langur with abundant food and less distraction.
Such sacred grove is a common feature in most of the town and villages in Jaintia Hills, especially in those parts where people were still intact with their indigenous beliefs.
The Niamtre people or the section of the Pnar community, who still practice indigenous faith, believe that God knows as the Ryngkaw or the Guardians resides in these sacred forests to guard and protect the people of that particular villages or town from the attack of any famine or plaque or against those who were trying to cause hardship to the village.
These forests were sacred to them.
There were some sacred forests where people with shoes are not allowed inside, so if one wants to enter it has to on barefoot.
These forests had been protected from time immemorial, destruction of any form, big or small were not allowed including hunting, even the wild edible fruits that grow in such forest can be consumed only in the inside but not to be taken home or use for commercial purpose, in this way, these forests were being protected.
These sacred forests were in fact the storehouse of rich biodiversity, some of the vegetation which had vanished from the adjoining areas are still found inside these forests.
The royal visit of the Capped Langurs to these particular forests, created the vibe of liveliness in such forests which were at present considered to be dormant due to the lack of wildlife.
These Capped Langurs were first sighted somewhere in the mid of July.
It was assumed that since there were no reports of Capped Langur in the adjoining areas, these Langurs must have been migrated from the colony, which were the residents of the Khloo Blai Sein Raij Tuber Community Reserved, which is also a sacred forest in another village at the distance of 10 km (as the crow flies distance).
This is the first time that the Capped Langurs had migrated and sighted in this place.
In my opinion, this may not be the first time that the Capped Langur had try to leave their home territory and reached the location they were sighted at present.
The distance as well as the landscape is not a continuous stretch of forest but interspaced with permanent paddy fields which had posed danger to their survival.
What I appreciated is the consciousness of the people towards conservation and in not harming these wonderful creatures in their journey.
These wildlife must have been sighted by human all along in their journey but reached their destination with no news of any untoward incidence reported so far.
One of the impacts might be, over the period of time people had realized that they are a part of this rich biodiversity, and in order to sustain their life on earth other creatures need to survive and to a certain extent, it is the indigenous faith which has instilled such deep-rooted respect for nature and wildlife.
It was because of the Pnar indigenous faith that the area still harbouring a good chunk of forest which are like an oasis in a desert.
It was in these oases that the rich diversity of flora and fauna of the area take refuge.
These areas are required to be checked from being encroached.
(The author is the Divisional Forest Officer, Jaintia Hills Wildlife Division, Jowai)